– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘On Borrowed Time’ blogtour, organised by Fly On The Wall Poetry Tours.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
Graeme lived in Hong Kong from 1993 to 2010 and still keeps a close connection to the city. His first novel was set in Hong Kong and Shanghai over the period 1996/97 and most of his writing comes from his love of that part of the world. Graeme first visited Macau in 1993 and he quickly became fascinated by the oldest European settlement in Asia. His short story collection, ‘The Goddess of Macau’ was published in August 2020 by Fly on the Wall Press.
He has won the short story competitions of the Macau Literary Festival and the Ilkley Literature Festival, and his writing has been published in anthologies by Black Pear Press and the Macau Literary Festival.He is an active member of the Leeds Writers Circle whose members have been a constant source of advice, support and encouragement. Graeme lives in Calderdale, West Yorkshire with his wife and a wooden dog.
Title: ‘On Borrowed Time’ by Graeme Hall
Paperback – 14th December 2020
Ebook – 14th December 2020
ISBN (paperback): 978-1-5272-7131-1
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-5272-7138-8
Paperback available from Amazon, and all major retailers
Ebook available from all major retailers
On Borrowed Time is set in Hong Kong and Shanghai over the period 1996/1997 – including the handover of Hong Kong to China. The novel explores the choices that people have to make; in particular between doing what is easy and what is right.
In Hong Kong, Emma Janssen discovers the truth behind the death of her brother four years earlier. Meanwhile, in Shanghai, a PhD student meets a woman with an unusual degree of interest in his research. These storylines converge at the time of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, and Emma finds that she has to choose between revenge or the future happiness and safety of both herself and those close to her.
While being a work of fiction, On Borrowed Time is rooted in the author’s own experiences of living and working in Hong Kong from 1993 to 2010, in particular the final years of British rule and the transfer of sovereignty back to China.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Well, I’m something of a cliché…having a mid-life crisis and decding to give it all up to write a novel. I’d had a successful career in intellectual property law but I’d reached that stage in life where I felt that every day I spent in the office was a day wasted, and a day gone that I was never going to get back. Like so many people I’d had a dream of writing a novel, but one of the first things that I did after stopping work was to go on a short story course run by Ebba Brooks at the University of Leeds Lifelong Learning Centre. That drew me into the world of short stories which culminated in the collection The Goddess of Macau published by Fly on the Wall, but the idea of the novel was always there and worked on in parallel.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
As a child I read a lot of science-fiction – Arthur C Clarke and John Wyndham were particular favourites – and I still do enjoy some sci-fi, but these days I read a very diverse selection ranging from genre fiction to Booker novels. You can see that from the last three books that I’ve bought: Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”, which I’ve always wanted to read after seeing Tilda Swinton in the film adaptation, some Scandi-noir crime with Ragnar Jónasson’s “The Darkness”, and then the latest indie from Dead Ink – “Cat Step” by Alison Irvine.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
There are probably two I’d love to talk to: David Mitchell and Haruki Murakami. I admire Mitchell for his ability to write page-turners with intellectual depth. Books that appeal to both general readers and the critics. Murakami I love for his general weirdness and I’d like to know how he makes the surreal seems so plausible.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
This is such a hard question! I think I’d go for Nicole Diver from F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, if only because she has what for me is one of the most heartbreaking lines in literature when she says to her husband: “Think how you love me,” she whispered. “I don’t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am tonight.” I’m not sure she’d be a tea person though, it may have to be a cocktail or a glass of champagne.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
Does procrastination count as a habit? I usually have music on while I’m writing. Nothing with voices though, that’s too distracting, but Bach keyboard music is perfect.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
From all over the place really. There was even one short story the idea for which came from a dream. Mostly though it’s a mixture of general themes and topics that concern me, combined with places I know and want to write about. Mind you, although the story is fictional, a couple of characters in On Borrowed Time are based on real people (who have been warned!).
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
Sadly I’m a pantser. I really wish I could plan better, it must be so much more efficient, but I find that it is only by the act of writing itself that I learn who my characters really are, and that in turn drives the plot, and sometimes changes the plot from any plan I had at the start!
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Find a supportive writing group. People you can share your writing with and give you honest feedback. I’ve been a member of the Leeds Writers Circle for years now and would never have achieved anything without them. The other advice, of course, is to read as much as you can, and then read even more.
What are your futureplans as an author?
I’m currently working on a second novel which is to be set in Macau around 1949/50, and will in large part be about the generosity of Macau and its people who took in so many refugees from China after the Communists won the civil war and established the People’s Republic.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
On Borrowed Time is set around the handover of Hong Kong to China back in 1997. When I started writing it one of my concerns was the future of Hong Kong under Chinese rule and the possibility of political repression. To my distress some of the things that at the time were only fears and anxieties have come true sooner and to a greater extent that I could have imagined. But my central character, Emma, did know what was coming and said as much in one scene:
‘We can’t just let these bullies get away with this sort of thing,’ Emma continued, animated now and looking around the room. ‘That’s what they are – bullies. Thugs. You’ve got to stand up to them or they’ll just think they can do what they like and they’ll just carry on like that – or worse. That’s what happened to me at school; I used to get picked on because of my hearing. At first it was just words – the other children liked to think I was stupid, I got called a retard, a spastic and so on – but then it got worse, became more physical. They liked to play this game where they would creep up behind me, quietly so that I wouldn’t hear them, then pull my hair or hit me in the back. It went on for ages until Pete … until someone showed me how to stand up for myself.
‘School playground or Chinese politics, it’s just a question of scale. Give one person power over another and the one thing you know for sure is they’ll abuse it. It’s the mentality of these people that really pisses me off. The way they push everybody else out of the way to get what they want. It doesn’t matter to them who they hurt in the process, the lives they ruin and destroy, the little people they trample over. And what do we do about it? Nothing. We might just as well sit at home and watch TV all day. Let them do whatever they want while we eat pizza and soak up mindless pap.
‘And what about after the handover? It’s all very well when it’s somewhere else. Somewhere far away that doesn’t affect us. But soon they’ll be here, and you can bet they’ll be in charge no matter what any agreement says. Bit by bit, they’ll change things. I expect we won’t notice it at first. “Look,” we’ll all say, “everything’s just the same,” and people will relax. Then there’ll be some small changes, but that will be okay, we’ll tell ourselves, “We can live with that, the important things haven’t changed.” Who knows, we might even believe it. But slowly, bit by bit, everything will be different and then what are we going to do about it? Say that we shouldn’t create a stir? We don’t want to upset people in case things get worse? But it will get worse. You know what they say about frogs and boiling water? Drop a frog into hot water and it will try and get out, but put a frog in cold water and slowly bring it to the boil … Well, that’s what will happen to Hong Kong unless we stand up and do something.
‘And Lily’ – Lily was looking down at her hands – ‘what about your nephew, what future is Thomas going to have? Don’t you want him to live in a place where he can feel free to do and say what he likes? Pursue his dreams and ambitions in whatever way he wants? Or would you rather he lived a life where he was always having to watch his back? Making sure he doesn’t say the wrong thing? Doesn’t upset the wrong people? Come on, everyone, isn’t that why we’re all here? Otherwise why bother? Let’s just give up now and do something else with our lives.’
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Graeme Hall.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!